During this time of “distance learning”, we’ve all learned one thing for certain: teaching kids is hard work. Even harder in the midst of a pandemic without the regular classroom tools or peer groups to support our kids.
So how can we make the best of this situation and help our kids learn from home? We’ve reached out to some veteran homeschoolers for their tips. Definitely worth a try as most of our country is facing school shutdowns for the remainder of the year.
Number One: most “home schoolers” do not call it “home school”. They prefer home education because every part of your home and daily experience is an opportunity for learning. Of course, we must all follow a curriculum and complete the lesson plans but learning is everywhere if you get creative. For instance: you don’t need a Schoology video to learn fractions – try real world examples such as measuring cake ingredients, sorting colored candies, or cutting a pizza.
Number Two: set your own schedule. As in, you can start and manage your day as it works for your family situation. By now, your kids’ Zoom/online schedule is routine and you have to show up for those but the rest of the day is yours! If the sun is shining, go outside for some Vitamin D. If everyone’s getting grumpy, take a silly break and dance around the living room. Be flexible and take cues from your kids. If their attention is waning, give them time to regroup by stepping away for a minute.
But remember to end the day at a certain time, too! Just like our new remote workstyle, learning from home means you never leave school! Knowing there is a defined time to their “work day” will help your kids plan and focus. Just like at school, end the day with a routine – clean up the workspace, stack and put away notebooks and folders, and leave that space until the next day.
Number Three: get physical. Decades of research has shown us that movement improves mood; builds better brain function; and enhances retention. Take regular “movement” breaks – every hour or so, get up and move for at least 5 minutes – a short walk outside, a quick dance to your favorite song, some active yoga stretches, or shooting hoops in the driveway. Whatever gets their blood pumping a little bit and muscles stretched out from sitting.
Additional Tips from Home Schoolers
Map it out by child. Create a central master list for the family. Some choose a whiteboard with assigned colors, some like a corkboard with index cards, or a wall with post-its. Whatever system you settle on, update it together at the end of the day and have a wrap-up night as a family so everyone knows what to expect.
Find a guest speaker. Do you have a family member, friend, or work colleague involved in something you’re studying? Share the lesson with them (ahead of time) and then have them record or Zoom their experience with that topic. This not only brings the lesson into real world experience, it gives the older folks in your life an opportunity to be involved in your kids’ day.
Decorate the “classroom”. If you’re able to keep an area separate for learning, decorate the walls and desk just like you would for a home office. Create a comfortable learning space that your kids enjoy being in. Add plants, an essential oils diffuser, good lighting, a comfortable chair, and fun photos or colorful artwork.
Address the stress. We can’t ignore the big picture of this situation – we’re all under extra and unique stress. Be aware of your own stress levels and talk with your kids about how they’re feeling. If they’re on social media, they’re probably hearing all kinds of scary things and they need your reassurance right now that you’re there to protect them. Consider a family destress practice – it can be as simple as expressing a daily gratitude, journaling, taking a few deep breaths, or sitting with a pet.
Show appreciation. One amazing lesson our kids are learning right now is how many people they have in their lives to support them. From the school administration to their teachers to their extracurricular coaches, we’re seeing amazing efforts by these (also stressed) people in stepping up to support our children. Help your kids recognize these every day extraordinary acts, then turn that into a weekly family exercise of writing thank-yous. Even better if your family can afford it, send a little something to these special people – flowers, a gift card from a local restaurant, or a special treat. An attitude of gratitude will stick with your kids through their lifetime.
Historical context on this article: this was written during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic of 2020. At the time of this writing, schools across the nation had been shut down for approximately one month with most extending closures to the end of the school year.